Friday, December 19, 2014

I bought a ukulele

I've been wanting to get a ukulele for awhile now. The grandkids love playing with my guitars - and I don't mind at all - but they're just not quite big enough to handle them yet. So I thought a uke would be the perfect size for their small hands. Plus it would be fun to have one for myself. I didn't want to get a "toy," because it wouldn't stay in tune and would probably just get broken. But a REAL uke (on the lower end of the $ scale) would be better, in my opinion.

So, after church last Sunday I stopped at Guitar Center and bought this Cordoba Concert Ukulele. I played around with a couple and this one just seemed right. The Protege is a beginner uke, but it's still a real uke. I've been messing around with it at work and it's kinda neat. They're easy enough to play, but the tuning is completely different from a guitar, so it's taking me some time to get used to it. Fortunately there are a ton of free resources on the interwebs.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Dr. visit

I had a regularly scheduled follow-up Dr's appointment yesterday at 9:15 am. The last time I was there I was trying to stop smoking and I went back on my blood pressure medicine.

I felt good when I went. I gained a little weight - I was up to 172 (which is actually less than I was last week). My blood pressure, however, was fantastic. 118/76. I was happy about that; as was the doctor. I forgot that I'd pretty much given up caffeine a week ago.

He was also very happy that I had quit smoking completely. He said in a couple years my body would be like I'd never smoked at all again.

I asked about getting off the Zoloft. He was like, "Oh yeah, whenever you want." He said I'm on a starter dose now anyway, so I could just start skipping a day and then after a week or two quit altogether; or if I wanted he could write me a prescription for a lower dose and quit that way. He said that was fine with him whenever I wanted to. 

We had a good visit. Kinda just chit-chatting. He had planned to have me do some blood work (cholesterol, etc) after this visit, but he said, "Ah, heck, let's just wait until summer to do that." That was okay with me.

Afterward I stopped at the Southtown Walmart to pick up the prescription I forgot had been waiting since Monday. I then celebrated the good dr. visit with a coffee and burrito from McD's. I got to work at 11 am.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

What I was thinking this past sunday morning

This past Sunday I had a number of thoughts running through my head. Jane was in Chicago, so I went to the worship gathering by myself, and sat in the back with Drew.

I was in a pretty good mood as I got ready and drove to church. I had a good night's sleep and listened to some Christmas music on the way. I felt good both physically and emotionally. I was also glad that I don't have to be there until 11 am now, rather than the 6 am I did for years. When I arrived I grabbed a seat in the back chairs. I didn't want to take a table seat since I was alone. I wasn't sure who else would be there. It ended up just me and Drew, so it was a wise choice.

The music annoyed me just a little. This particular worship leader tends to like to play things loud - which doesn't bother me at all - but today seemed to be much more performance-oriented than participation-oriented (which seems to be happening more and more). Plus, I do not like it when they start singing a standard tune, and then all of a sudden change it to some newfangled way - and of course the words on the screen never seem to match. Ugh. So I was disappointed (in myself) during the music time. I hate when I get critical like that. Especially when so many people are getting so into it. Why am I like this? But why can't people just let us sing along?

Anyway, during the announcements they had about 90 envelopes with various amounts of cash in them. Someone had made a large donation to the church and they wanted it to go to people who need help at this time of year, so we were supposed to take an envelope and give it to someone in need. This really sparked a fire in me, because I had recently been thinking that I need to start buying pizza's for the homeless folks downtown. Just start by buying a pizza and see if I can find someone to share it with, and see where it goes. That's kinda what son Isaac did in downtown Indy years ago. Well, it turned out that all the envelopes of money were gone by the time I could get up there. That doesn't matter though, because I don't really need the money to do it. I still want to do that, but now... not quite as much. Life goes on, ya know.

The message was a little different today. Not bad, but the pastor just read from his ipad. It didn't bother me at all. I think it's good to mix things up a bit now and then. I could tell some people didn't like it, but I bet there were a lot of people who did. I'm glad he did it. I can remember doing similar things myself.

Listening to Chris this day kind of got me thinking, "I could probably do this again." But then I brought myself back to reality. I honestly don't think I can ever preach again. I think I was just too humiliated. But I did think about the prospect of being a 'pastor of spiritual formation' someday. I think I'm much more suited to that. The coaching would be helpful with that as well. But then I wondered if I really needed the title or not. What would it look like if I were that, but didn't have the title??? Or... not.

Towards the end I was praying that something would happen after the service ended. I decided I was going to hang around and just see what happened. I told God I was open to whatever he wanted. Well... you know... not one person spoke to me. I said goodbye to Drew, Bennett and Caleb, and wondered if maybe they were what was supposed to happen. I dunno. I just kinda felt like I was standing there all alone by myself in the middle of this room full of people.

I ended up leaving, going to the mall and getting some Christmas presents, stopped at Guitar Center and bought a Ukelele, and went to Drew's and had Tombstone pizza for lunch. Then I went home and dinked around the house. All in all it was an okay day.

That's about it.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

I doubt it

I remember when I was a pastor it would often make church people uneasy when I expressed my doubts about issues of faith. Like, you know, what if I'm wrong?? It even started to make ME feel a bit uneasy at times over the last year and a half. Not that I ever gave up on God, but sometimes I did wonder just how much doubt a person could have and still be considered a Christian. I haven't figured it out yet, but I'm not too worried about it right now.

Ironically, it has always amazed me just how assured some of my atheist friends are that there is no God. I mean, I tend to think I am fairly committed in my devotion to God and the life and teachings of Jesus (even in seasons of doubt), but it seems the atheists I've known have no room at all for doubt or questions in their beliefs. That seems odd to me. I probably don't understand.

Anyway, I ran across this article on '7 Prominent Christian Thinkers Who Wrestled With Doubt.' It's not too long, and lists some serious "doubters"... C.S. Lewis, Mother Teresa, Luther, Calvin, etc. I felt it a comforting article.

I certainly don't want to make someone doubt their faith, but I do want to encourage those who may have some doubts now and then... I think God is plenty capable of handling it. Doubt is not the same as unbelief. In fact, sometimes I think it's healthy to say, "You know, I would be open to the Spirit teaching me something new." You'd be in good company.

So... that's all.

Monday, December 15, 2014

The girls are back in town, and mowing (maybe)

The three lovelies ladies in my life took a weekend trip to Chicago. They left Saturday around noon, got a hotel right downtown, did a little shopping, a little sight-seeing, went to the Shedd Aquarium, and got home last night. It sounds like they had a swell time, and that Anna was a near-perfect little princess. I'm glad they got to spend some time together, and it allowed me a chance to indulge my introverted side with some quiet time at home. :)

While they were gone I ran the gas line and hooked up the gas stove/fireplace, then yesterday after church and lunch with Drew and the boys, I MOWED THE LAWN!  Not that I really mowed much grass, but there were a bunch of leaves left over that I didn't rake to the curb for the city to pick up. So I just mowed everything over. It does actually look a lot better. I'm not sure I can really count it as a mowing though. At any rate, I ran the mower over the lawn, and then ran it out of gas. I may actually take it up to the storage facility and put it in my climate controlled unit for the winter now.

Some of the Chicago pics...


Sunday, December 14, 2014

The gas stove

I hooked up this nice little gas stove/fireplace thing in the basement yesterday. I've wanted something that would provide heat in the event of a power outage, and this will do the trick. It's heats up the basement in no time - even without the optional blower. Plus it looks kinda nice.

All I had to do was run a natural gas line straight along the wall about 22' into the laundry room, make a turn, and hook it into the existing line where the previous owners had a gas dryer. I had asked a friend to help out, because I wasn't all that comfortable working with gas, but I finally just watched some youtube videos and figured it out myself. It wasn't too bad. Fortunately I didn't need to cut any pipe. I bought 2 10' sections, 1 18", 24", and 36", 2 couplers, an elbow and a T. I also opted for the pipe joint compound instead of the yellow tape.

I did check for gas leaks (with dishsoap) but I woke up with a smile knowing that I didn't kill myself during the night. Awesome, if I do say so myself. :)

Saturday, December 13, 2014

What does it mean to be a friend

I was reading this article the other day about Stuart Scott. He's a sports reporter who apparently has cancer for the 3rd time. I guess the Monday Night Football crew gave him quite the salute this past week. A teary-eyed Suzy Kolber shared the following on the air:

"It's been seven years and Stuart is the recipient of the Jimmy V Award for perseverance and he said in his amazing speech . . . that sometimes when you don't have the strength, you need your friends to step up a little bit and help you. So, Stuart, we want you to know we're sending you some extra strength and to keep fighting that fight."

I thought it was a nice gesture, and a good article. What really struck me, though, was the part I underlined in the above excerpt. I had forgotten about one of the last times I talked with the person who was chairman of the church board when I took what I thought was a sabbatical, and was subsequently let go.

It was a well-known fact at the time that I was burned out. I was seeing a counselor and was basically just "holding on" until I could start the sabbatical. I went to lunch with the chairperson, and at one point he asked what the council could do for me; how could they best help? I remember clear-as-day telling him that what I really needed more than anything... was for them to be my friends right now (which I thought they were). It was along the exact same lines as Stu Scott meant: because sometimes you don't have the strength, and you need your friends to step up a little bit and help you.

That's what has puzzled me the most about this whole dang affair with the former church. I don't know how, why or when they went from being my "friends"... to being people who wouldn't even talk to me (or my wife). It took less than 6 weeks and they apparently completely changed their minds, wouldn't offer an explanation, wouldn't meet with us, and have had absolutely nothing to do with us for well over a year now. It just boggles my mind.

Anyway... whatever... I don't think about it much anymore, but when I read that comment... it reminded me of that conversation in the Huntington Wendy's. Seems like a long, long time ago. And I obviously have no idea what it means to be a friend.

Friday, December 12, 2014

My business card

Another work related post. I finally got some business cards. I can't even remember when the pictures were taken, but it was a loooong time ago. And, as per usual, they are pretty poorly done. Oh, they're quality cards, but my picture is awful. Everyone else's were from farther back. Mine is fairly obvious that my head is photoshopped onto the background, and I have a stupid look on my face. It's more like a mugshot. My shirt is also scrunched up. The main thing though... the phone number is wrong. The sales guy had the cards made, and they conveniently have HIS phone number on them instead of mine. He said it was "an oversight" and that we can change it. Yeah, as soon as I go through these 10,000 cards! Whatever. It's not a big deal, but it's the first time I've ever had business cards so I admit I was a little excited... until they arrived. Such is life. :/

The top is the front and the bottom is the back. I blackened out the address, phone number, and web site.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Pictures from work

I took a couple pictures at my office yesterday. In this top photo is a view of my desk area, after I decorated it for Christmas. I found these stockings in the dumpster - left by the alcohol distributor who rents one of my offices - and thought they went nicely with the green background. I put a business card of each of the people who work in this office on a stocking. The wreath is up there all the time, and I got the Christmas card on the back desk in the mail yesterday. I'd say that's about as Christmas-y as it needs to get for me.

This next photo is of the bike I found in an abandoned unit. I'd seen someone put these kitty litter buckets on as saddlebags, so I thought this would work out great on the "work bike." Since it's too cold for the golf cart, and I'm too cheap to drive my car around the facility, I thought as long as there's no ice or snow I could ride the bike around - when I need to check on things, or move someone in or out, or deliver a package, or whatever. Now I can tote stuff around with me and/or pick up trash along the way. And it was super easy. I read about all kinds of ways to hook the buckets on, but I opted for simply using a bungee cord on each side around the top. So far they seem to be fairly secure, and easy enough to remove for dumping. I was pretty happy with how it turned out. Plus I got rid of a couple kitty litter buckets from our stack in the basement at home.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

I'm not sure what happened there

I have no idea what's going on with my blog. Last night I tried to look at it, and it kept redirecting to some kind of "advert." This was the link it redirected to: (if that means anything to anyone). I couldn't sign in or anything. So I changed my google password and just went to bed. Now, this morning, it seems back to normal. But who knows.

I have noticed the past few weeks that I've had a "Googlebot" going through my archives to old posts. So I suppose it's something Google did to sabotage one of their own blogs (I believe Google owns Blogger).

I did hear from a friend from Missouri last night about it. For all I know Jim may have fixed it. If so, thanks Jim! :)

Other than that... I was totally prepared to lose my blog last night. Sure, there are lots of memories and things here, but nothing really important. It would be like a house fire, I suppose. Sometimes I do think this is kind of pointless though, and a big waste of time. But I guess it's a classic - 'it is what it is.' So... whatever.

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

I don't know nothin' and a recovering racist

There are a couple pieces I want to point to regarding the whole race/ferguson/police thing. I've been hesitant to discuss it much, but that doesn't mean I haven't been thinking about it. I am not usually so restrained in my opinions. Maybe I'm maturing. Or afraid. I don't know, but I am learning that anybody can have an opinion; it's another thing entirely to have something worthwhile to say.

The following two posts really stuck with me. The first I saw on Fitch's blog, and the second is from a guy who actually grew up in the same small Illinois town of 400 people as I did. He lived down the street.

David Whited wrote the following, and I'm just going to put the whole thing on here.

One night in high school youth group, my youth pastor told us a story about the first time he was invited to preach at a historically black church in our hometown in Arkansas. My youth pastor had just graduated from seminary and was feeling pretty good about all of the stuff that he learned there, so when the invitation came, he thought he’d preach on a subject he felt would relate to the people he was preaching to.

The topic he chose for that Sunday’s message? Suffering.

My youth pastor told us about how he got up to the pulpit on that bright Sunday morning and preached his heart out. He was shocked by how the shouts from the congregation made him a better preacher than he had ever been in a white church. He was convinced things had gone really well, so he was really excited to see one of the men he had identified as an elder in the congregation start to move toward him to shake his hand at the end of the service.
As the old man made his way to shake his hand, the young preacher indulged in some quick fantasies about the assessment he was about to receive. He was pretty sure that the elder was going to tell him he was surprised that a young white man could “bring it like that”.

Instead, the old man reached out to shake my youth pastor’s hand and gave him exactly one sentence of feedback. He said, “Boy… you don’t know nothin’.”

Ever since the night I heard that story while sitting cross-legged on the floor in the youth room at my church, I have tried to take that elder’s simple remark as my starting point in any conversation I engage in around topics of race, difference, or marginalization. It’s true. I don’t know nothin’. That’s why I need to listen long before I speak and learn before I make a judgment. I’m not naturally good at either one of those things, but because of that old man’s rebuke (and the humility of my youth pastor), I know I have to try.

I pray for all the people of Ferguson tonight and offer up this confession before so much violence and fear:

It’s true. I don’t know nothin’.

 I would like to include the entire post for the second one too, but this is long enough already, so here is the link to Joshua Throneburg's "Thoughts From A Recovering Racist." He starts out, "I grew up white, not just in the color of my skin, but in the culture of my youth..." It's good stuff. Worth clicking through to read.

Monday, December 08, 2014

I'm a coach

I am now a certified coach with Coach Approach Ministries. I received my certificate Thursday, and my name is already listed on their website. I guess I better figure out how much I'm going to charge and all that. ;)

I'm still somewhat torn as to how far into this I want to go. I have to admit, I went ahead and paid for the certification partly just to be able to put it on my resume, and partly just to make myself feel like I was doing something productive again (I could have done the training without getting the certification). However, there is a part of me that really likes the idea of this. So, you know, it's possible I may pursue this a little further at some point.

If you are interested in coaching, or being coached by me, I suggest taking a look at the Coach Approach link above.

My next step - after determining fees and policies and so forth - is deciding which class I want to take next. I will need to take at least one class per year to keep my certification.

So... yeah.